Stop that squeak!

It can be overwhelming. There is so much about bike repair and bike maintenance that I don’t know yet and I find myself constantly playing catch up, trying to learn what I need to know to keep my bikes in good condition.

Sometimes, I look at one of my bikes and think,

“I have no clue how this thing actually works, what am I even doing riding it anywhere?”

I guessΒ learning it all doesn’t happen overnight. The good thing is I am making progress, albeit slower progress than my bikes surely hope for.

Last week, my mountain bike started squeaking with every pedal stroke. I figured the chain needed a good cleaning, so that day when I got home from work I scrubbed everything down. In the morning, I applied a fresh layer of lube and called it good.

It wasn’t good. The squeaking continued. Is there anything worse then riding a madly squeaking bike?

This time when I got home, I looked at each moving part to determine what could possibly be causing my ears such pain. The culprit turned out to be the innocent looking guide pulley.

Yesterday I got out my set of Allen keys and confidently loosened the bolt which held the pulley in place. (Guide pulleys can sense fear so my use of the term “confidently” is a cover-up of my actual emotional state.)

Since I was already tinkering around with the derailleur, I took the other pulley out as well.cleaning bike pulleys

After cleaning each part, I lubed the pulleys and tightened them back into their respective places. And for bonus points I figured out why I have been having trouble with my rear brakes; one of the pads was up too high and was brushing the tire.

I felt like a champ. I had diagnosed the problem and solved it.

Did the process take a few hours?
Yes.

Was I laughably clumsy the entire time?
Yes.

Did I put the chain around the pulleys incorrectly the first couple of tries?
Yes.

But everything is back in place and working fine. And best of all, I did it all by myself.

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46 thoughts on “Stop that squeak!

  1. Yep, Bri, it’s a process of learning. I still find things I don’t know about my bikes and I was raised a mechanic’s son so I’m mechanically adept. I’m better at demolition than construction! Good Job!

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  2. I used to work on my bikes a lot. Just like you it took me a lot longer to do than the mechanic at the bike store. I ride so much now (my commute is 30 miles round trip) that I don’t have time anymore. One advantage you have over me is that you can take digital pix of the thing you are fixing before you mess it up. That way you’ll know what it looks like when you go to put it back together.

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    • Yeah, a 30 mile commute would eat up a big chunk of the day!

      I actually forgot to take pictures of the derailleur before I started, that would have saved me from trying to remember how the chain went around…of course I could have looked at a picture on the internet as well, but I really thought I got it right: until I noticed the chain sagging painfully!

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  3. I think madness can be defined as a squeaky bike. I am regularly confronted with my bike maintenance ineptitude (including this morning, when I noticed – and ignored- a regular clicking sound on my commuter). I keep promising myself that I will eventually learn more bike maintenance… Maybe next year.

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  4. I was proud of myself when I fixed my son’s flat tire a few weeks ago. I even found the little thorn in the tire that had caused the problem and took it out. But I’m still a little hesitant, even for this simple task, after I had a tube explode a couple of years ago. A little bit of the tube had gotten caught between the tire and the rim and I didn’t see it until all of the sudden it blew. It was really loud and made me scared to try again. But I’ve gotten “back in the saddle” and can do it now.

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  5. rightie tightie, lefty loosy. (except the pedals, which are reverse that so they don’t come loose as you pedal) 2 other things in life thread backwards too, the handle on your toilet tank and propane tank connections.

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    • But which way is right? And which way is left? Remembering right and left is never automatic for me, haha! Someday I will eventually get it drilled in my head that right=clockwise and left=counterclockwise, then I will be a pro at fixing stuff except for pedals, toilets and propane tanks, of course πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Righty” and “Lefty” refer to the relative “top” of the thing being turned (you can also think of the steering wheel in a car, and which way you would turn it to make a right or left turn), so you are “right”, righty = clockwise, lefty=counter-clockwise. Maybe you could remember that when you want to remove something to set it on the counter-top, you turn it counter-clockwise. Counter-top, counter-clock. It almost rhymes. Also, if you ever want to remove pedals, only the left pedal has reverse threads, so it alone is righty-loosey, lefty-tighty.

        Not to add any anxiety, because it really doesn’t make that much difference, but those pulleys/jockey wheels in your rear derailleur aren’t technically interchangeable. The upper one (I believe) is supposed to have a little bit of extra play (side-to-side looseness), while the lower one should be less loosey-goosey. This is to allow for the imprecision that is inherent in derailleur adjustment and prevents rattling or skipping that might otherwise result if the indexed shifting isn’t spot-on. In reality, after enough wear, both pulleys have enough wobble in them that it ends up not making much difference, but hopefully you put the top one back in the top and the bottom one back in the bottom…

        My introduction to the world of things that make sense but you wouldn’t necessarily think of was back when I first attempted to replace a chain and found out you can’t just slap a new chain on old, worn cogs. Fast-forward to today, and I’ve just finished straightening one rear drop-out and replacing my handlebars, “brifters”, and cables after a medium-bad crash. And it only cost me a fraction of what I would have paid a shop to do it. Of course, if you never hear from me again, it probably means I missed something…

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      • I’m glad to hear you and your bike are in working order after the crash. Stay safe, okay? You have got me a bit worried, so you better check in again soon, even though I am sure your repair job was top-notch πŸ™‚

        Thanks for all this info, I learned a lot! Thankfully, I did know the two pulleys had differences, so I made sure to replace each in the correct spot. Of course I didn’t know what the differences were so I was a bit worried when the top pulley seemed more wiggly than its counterpart, but I guess that is the way it is designed to be!

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  6. Nothing like getting your bike back in TOP working order. My mountain bike (at over 22 years old) rides as good as the day I bought it. I’ve learned PLENTY about bike repair over the years. When in doubt, look it up on YouTube. You can find anything there!

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      • Hey! I don’t doubt you for a minute. I just know it takes time. I’m left handed too, and it took me a little while (and several mistakes) to figure out the difference between English and French threads.

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  7. Wow. That’s great that you fixed your bike. I have no mechanical abilities, but my boyfriend can do most things. I’m lucky to have him.

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  8. Just remember Bri, you can’t break it bad enough the shop can’t fix it.

    And what Dan said…

    The only way to get faster is to start slow and awkwardly. Same thing with riding actually. Nice work.

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  9. Glad you found the squeak Bri. I had one on the XC and it took me a bit to figure out my seat post needed a lube. Have confidence you can accomplish everything you set your heart or mind to! Jim is right that you cannot break it that bad and YouTube is your friend.

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  10. I’m proud of you for tinkering with it yourself. One key attribute of a real cyclist is to be self sufficient mechanically. You’ve definitely fit that bill.

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  11. I think I’m the kind that must be a real pain. I just ‘get’ mechanical things, and always have. Played with Lego as a kid, did some work in a garage, and an apprenticeship where one of the jobs was to take an engine completely apart and put it back together, and I’ve worked on so many bolts I don’t have to think which way tightens and which way loosens, my hand just knows. The toughest thing I ever had to do was change the timing belt on a V8, and after having a good think I got it right first time – if I can do that there’s nothing on a bike to hold any terrors for me.

    But I think the key is to have just the right amount of confidence, not to be put off by the scale of a job, because even the most complex jobs breaks down into a series of simple steps. But also not to be one of those who just blunders on thinking they know it all. Even I sometimes have to stop and take stock, it’s the ones who get impatient who do damage – especially crossed threads.

    The cool thing with my bike was I had to do an awful lot of work on it to get it in a rideable condition in the first place, so I know exactly what’s what. Maybe it might be an idea to get some beat up bike someone’s throwing out and keep it just for giving your hands the mechanical practise they need? There’s no skill that can’t be learned through proper practise.

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    • Oh, and be really, really neat. That helps a lot. Clear a space and lay things out the way they came off, and make sure they’re not in a place they’ll get disturbed.

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      • Yes, people like you are a huge pain. How dare you be a natural mechanic while other people like me blunder their way through the simplest repairs! Too bad you live in the UK, if you lived around here I would storm into your house and demand that you give me bike repair lessons πŸ™‚

        Thank you for the tips…I do have a “dead” bike so I will start taking her apart and putting her back together, that’s a great suggestion! As for being neat, I will do my absolute best πŸ˜€

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  12. I am very intimidated by bike maintenance, but it feel like it’s a skill I need. 2016 resolution, perhaps? Good job fixing your own bike!

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